Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.77: Dagon (in memoriam of Carl T. Ford)

Dagon made a previous appearance in 2016s Lovecraftian Thing a Day, but with the sad passing of Carl T. Ford - Dagon’s creator, publisher and editor - towards the end of 2017, it seems appropriate once more to recognise the significance of this Lovecaftian ‘zine one more time (with different issues on display to those used in the 2016 post).

I bought what I now believe to be the very first issue of Dagon (which, sadly, I no longer possess) during a visit to the original Games Workshop in Dalling Road, Hammersmith, sometime between  1983-84; at that point it was principally dedicated to the Call of Cthulhu rpg. However, by the mid-1980s, Dagon had expanded its remit to focus increasingly on Lovecraftian fiction whilst also significantly upping the ante when it came to production values, with glossy card frontcovers showcasing some of the best in then-current Lovecraftian art; the interiors were also increasingly lavised with (usually) high-end art, and Dagon attracted contributions by notable genre writers such as Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, T.E.D Klein, and Thomas Ligotti. I became a regular purchaser of Dagon around this time when, during my first year at University in 1987, I discovered the T.E.D. Klein 18-19 double issue at Games Workshop in Leeds (the connection between the weird fiction renaissance and role-playing games is, indeed, a significant one which I hope to comment on at a later date). Dagon ceased publication three years later with issue 27.

I can’t overemphasise how significant Dagon was to me in terms of my personal journey of discovery of the UK Lovecraftian/Weird Fiction scene during this period - a time when things Lovecaft-related were very sparse on the ground indeed (especially where mainstream bookshops and publshing were concerned); were it not for Dagon (and later, Stephen Jones’ annual Best New Horror anthology), I would not have become aware of writers like Wagner, Ligotti or Klein - or homegrown talent such as D.F. Lewis and Mark Samuels - until much later.

Equally important was the fact that specialist bookshops and mail-order sellers such as The House on the Borderland, The Fantasy Centre, and Kadath Press were also advertised their wares in the zine’s pages, opening up multiple opportunities for purchasing otherwise-unavailable small press publications (although I have to apolgise to Facebook friends Mick Lyons of Kadath Press and Dave Brzeski of The House on the Borderland retrospectively, for not making more use of their services - The Fantasy Centre tended to be my principle port of call during regular family visits to London back in the day). Now that we seem to be reaching peak Cthulhu in terms of the vast number of books and anthologies currently available - many of which are immediately downloadable - I suspect that new fans of Lovecaftian fiction will have difficulty undersanding what it was like in those glorious pre-internet days!

In any case, thank you Carl T. Ford for all your efforts in the early days of the UK resurgence of all things Lovecraftian. Wherever you are now, I hope you rest easy.

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